Q&A: Dysrhythmia's Kevin Hufnagel And Colin Marston On NYC's Metal Revival, Leaving Relapse Records And Being In A Shit-Ton of Bands
When Herculean experi-metal prog trio Dysrhythmia traded in their Killadelphia digs for New York City's clusterfuck of a music scene in the mid-naughts, metal and its myriad subgenres barely registered as a blip on this town's radar.
Equipped with a sonic blueprint of meticulously constructed all-instrumental metallic-cum-classikill obliteration, its three membersguitarist Kevin Hufnagel, bassist Colin Marston and drummer Jeff Ebernot only helped revive Brooklyn metal in its Dysrhythmia guise but also with the multitudes of bands and solo projects each are engulfed in and constantly scouring clubs and DIY spaces including, Krallice, Zevious, Gorguts, Behold the Arctopus and Vaura.
Sound of the City caught up with Hufnagel and Marston via email.
After several years and a couple albums with Relapse Records, you've parted ways with them; the next Dysrhythmia album will be released by Profound Lore. Why did you leave Relapse?
Kevin Hufnagel: We had originally signed for a three-album deal, which we had fulfilled after the release of Psychic Maps. I think it was a mutual feeling that we both part ways after that. No hard feelings. They certainly helped us out a lot in the beginning.
Why did you choose to sign with Profound Lore? What do you like about your new label?
Hufnagel: Chris at Profound Lore responded very favorably to the demo we sent him of the new material we were working on. He also had the right mentality and attitude for helping us move forward and further expanding our listening audience. Colin has worked extensively with him, through Krallice, and other avenues, and has had nothing but positive things to say about his experiences.
Colin Marston: As Kevin said, this is not a new label for me. Chris Bruni is my favorite person to deal with in the world of record labels and even though he runs Profound Lore as a total DIY operation (which i greatly respect), he is more on top of business than any other label I've ever dealt with, and, at the same time, is a good curator, AND is the only label to ever pay me royalties! A winning combo.
You wrote this on your Facebook band page: "For the first time in the band's history, we plan on putting an actual 'thanks list,' old-school style, inside our next album. An extensive one, at that." Why have you resisted doing this for so long?
Hufnagel: Usually I feel like the people that need to be thanked, know who they are, but at this point, being that this will be our sixth album in 12 years, we felt it would be proper to list everyone from the beginning of the band's days, to show our appreciation.
With both of your extracurricular activities (and Jeff's non-Dysrhythmia projects like Zevious) like Behold the Arctopus, Krallice, Gorguts, Vaura, Kevin's solo stuff and Colin's engineering/recording ventures, what is your method in going about juggling all of your projects?
Hufnagel: It can be tricky. The key is to just have a constant communication going between all members of every project, and to be disciplined about keeping calendars. Luckily, I play music with people that are not only extremely passionate about the music we write together, but are also responsible and reliable individuals. I think everyone has respect for each other's different endeavors; we're all fans of each other's music.
Marston: I'm self-employed so i make my own schedulethat's the only way it works for me. Some of the bands can only practice in the evening, others during the day, and others only twice a year, so flexibility is key. The other thing that's great is that no band I play in is focused on "going for it" (i.e. touring eight months out of the year, doing dumb package tours for exposure, and generally putting effort into making people try to like your band). That means I'm here in New York writing, practicing, and recording 85% of the year instead of touring for an album I made last year and probably wrote three years ago. But also, like Kevin said, our little musical community is one where we're all in a zillion bands, so there's never the expectation that all band members need to devote all their time to one given group. We're creative people, not employees of a company.
Are you guys as busy as you appear to be?
With all the aforementioned other bands and solo stuff, is Dysrhythmia your "main" band that takes precedence over everything else?
Hufnagel: It used to be, but at this point, I consider every band equal.
Would one of you leave Dysrhythmia to do one of your other bands full-time?
Hufnagel: No, we don't have any trouble balancing things, we're used to it.
Marston: I would never do one band full-time. The term implies that music is a job, or that you're "going for it." What I like about music is composing, playing, and recording itnot trying to be successful (whatever that means). I'm pretty sure James and Lars didn't let Jason Newsted play in his other band because Metallica was "full time." What the fuck is that?
What details can you tell us about your new album and what way do you think Dysrhythmia has changed and evolved since earlier releases up to the new album that's coming out later this year?
Hufnagel: I think we've gotten more and more focused, the compositions are stronger, the music keeps getting darker in mood, and for me personally, the material I've written for this album is some of my most melodic yet. I'm particularly excited about the recording process for this record. We will be experimenting more with guitar layers, and embellishing the textural aspect of our music.
Marston: Jeff's playing double bass now. Finally!!
Colin, Behold the Arctopus played a few gigs last month and, as your band-mate Weasel Walter told it, it was a long time in the making of long and intense practices that lasted months, if not years, of preparation. Is the process of writing songs and practicing for gigs in the case of Dysrhythmia as arduous as it was (or seemed to be) for Arctopus?
Marston: Behold has always been (and probably always will be) the most arduous band I've done. That is because the music is the most complex, plus it isn't written on the instruments. All the compositions, except for parts of the first two EPs, go straight from brain to paper, and are not collaborative. In Dysrhythmia, everything is written on the instrument and we all write our own parts--so it's not nearly as hard to get a song together. Writing music for Behold never takes long for me, but figuring out how to play it confidently individually, and then, as an ensemble is no easy task. It's written like classical music, but we're not classical musicians--we're just dumb rock guys! We took 2009 off after we kicked out Charlie. I wrote one new song over that period but it wasn't until December, 2009 that Weasel moved here and we started practicing. Weasel wrote two songs for the band and I wrote four more over the next year and a half. All the while, we were practicing together pretty much every week. Because of the high learning curve of the material and integrating a new third of the band, it took over two years to learn the first five songs. That's about the same pace we were at when Mike and I began the band, so this is like starting over. Now that we've played a few shows, recorded the album, and already have two new finished songs, I think the pace will pick up.
Dysrhythmia has been a presence in Brooklyn/NYC since the late '90s/early 2000s, way before metal (avant-metal, black metal, etc.) underwent its recent resurgence and wasn't as en vogue as it seems like it is today. Can you guys talk about how "the scene" has changed/evolved over the years?
Hufnagel: Well, Dysrhythmia started in Philadelphia in the late '90s, originally. We relocated to NYC in 2005 when Colin replaced Clayton Ingerson, our original bassist. I do, however, remember the days of playing Brooklyn in the early 00's and it was awful. There was no audience for this music, or support for it. It wasn't until around 2004, when Dysrhythmia played with Behold the Arctopus, that it seemed like we found an audience here, and word started to spread. It certainly has grown a ton, even in just the last three years. I have no idea why, but I'm certainly happy that it has.
Marston: I can confirm this, since I think Jeff's parents and I were the only people at NYC Dysrhythmia shows in the early 2000s.
Do you think metalwhatever the genre is more accepted now than it was when you first started?
Hufnagel: There are more media outlets covering it nowadays, so maybe that's helped people take it more seriously, or notice it at all.
Marston: Sure, but that's just because metal is older and more diverse now. It has had more time to mutate and reach a larger, more diverse audience.
Do you think you are somewhat responsible for its resurgence and for its renewed interest and popularity? The three of you seem to be involved in so much of it.
Hufnagel: We don't really pay attention; we've just been going about our business as usual. I think the Internet is responsible for its resurgence.
Kevin, you have your own solo stuff, have played solo gigs at places like The Stone and play baritone ukulele. When you play solo, how much of that is drawn and influenced by improvisational music?
Hufnagel: None of it is. All the music I play solo, so far, have been composed pieces.
Hufnagel: Performing solo is more intimidating to me. There's no one else to hide behind if you're having an off night. However, the material I play solo is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum from what I do in Dysrhythmia, which is the point of it. Solo performances are more about meditation and stillness; Dysrhythmia is more about unleashing the fury.
Colin, your name is on shit ton of releases lately, having done recording duties for the likes of Orthrelm, Seabrook Power Plant, Talibam! and many others. How did you get into recording bands, and did you expect to have your stamp on so many albums?
Marston: I like the bands you just mentioned because they're three of the most inaccessible (and best) bands I've ever heard, let alone worked with. Nice! I've been interested in recording ever since I can remember. It makes me really happy to have a hand in immortalizing amazing music like you mentioned. But I'm also a nerd and I can get into the sound of a recording, even if I don't particularly like the music. I always expected I'd be recording for the rest of my life but I didn't think I would be running my own studio from the beginning. I'm finally out of debt after seven years so the studio is doing OK for now but there's no insurance and it'll stay that way. I'm affordable enough that I get work.... for now. Pretty soon I might be cleaning some yuppies' house like fake-Aimme Mann!
What were you guys schooled on when you were younger that helped you go into the direction you find yourselves in today?
Hufnagel: I was schooled on 80's metal and classical music. Those are my roots and will never leave me, no matter what style of music I'm playing.
Marston: I grew up with European prog. King Crimson, Univers Zeroyou know, rock that pretends to be classical. Same deal: I'm not escaping that any time soon.
Dysrhythmia plays St. Vitus on Thursday.
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